Dems seek to expand House fight one week before midterms

Dems seek to expand House fight one week before midterms

SHAWNEE, Kan. — One week before Election Day, Democrats and Republicans across the country see an expanding battlefield for the House majority that hints at a tumultuous and unsettled environment rocked by political violence and ethnic strife.

The number of seats in play has ballooned, with Democrats seeking to extend the playing field in the hope that a blue wave will develop even in districts across the country that voted more heavily in 2016 for President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE

The largest outside groups backing Democrats have begun sending mail to districts held by Reps. John CarterJohn Rice CarterDCCC opens Texas office to protect House pickups, target vulnerable GOP seats The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Dem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag 'a little scary' MORE (R-Texas), Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithEx-GOP congressman heads to investment bank Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Comstock joins K Street firm MORE (R-Texas), Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Jackie WalorskiJacqueline (Jackie) R. WalorskiSome in GOP fear Buttigieg run for governor A tax reform error is harming restaurants and costing jobs Bipartisan House bill would fix GOP tax law's 'retail glitch' MORE (R-Ind.) and in a seat formerly held by Republican Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisGOP leaders dead set against Roy Moore in Alabama Workers find 27 possible graves near Florida's oldest reform school Trump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report MORE in Florida.

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That spending represents an against-the-odds bid to expand the number of opportunities Democrats have to gain seats, according to party strategists familiar with the moves. Most of the districts are the kind of seats that are only likely to be won by Democrats if the wave is big, but the spending points to an underlying confidence for the party.

Republicans, for their part, discount the notion that a real national wave is in the offing, pointing to Trump’s approval rating, which has risen somewhat, and poll numbers that show the Democratic advantage in the so-called generic ballot matchup stagnating or even shrinking.

But to judge by deeds instead of words, even Republicans see a need to shore up vulnerable incumbents and seats once deemed safe.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Monday moved to purchase late advertising time in districts held by Reps. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerHouse fails to override Trump veto on border wall The 25 Republicans who defied Trump on emergency declaration 13 House Republicans who bucked Trump on emergency declaration MORE (R-Wash.) and Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordTrump keeps tight grip on GOP Endorsing Trump isn’t the easiest decision for some Republicans Mark Sanford warns US could see ‘Hitler-like character’ in the future MORE (R-S.C.), who lost his bid for re-nomination in the spring.

The party is even spending on behalf of Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race DCCC opens Texas office to protect House pickups, target vulnerable GOP seats Dems ramp up subpoena threats MORE (R-Texas), an incumbent who once looked like such a safe bet for reelection that Republicans canceled their planned advertising spending there.

Hanging over the final week of the campaign is the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue — the deadliest single incident of violence against Jewish people in U.S. history — as well as the string of package bombings sent to prominent Democrats.

The violence has left much of the country on edge while underlining the stark polarization in politics that seems worse than any period since at least the Vietnam-era 1960s. 

It has also added an unpredictable tinge to the midterm campaign’s last days.

Trump, who railed against the “fake news” media on Monday and warned of an “invasion” from the migrant caravan in Mexico traveling toward the U.S. border, is set to travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

The two parties fighting for control of the House of Representatives are battling across huge swaths of the country, from the North Woods of Maine to the sunny coasts of Southern California, from a suburban Seattle district that includes Mt. Rainier to the conservative Florida Gulf Coast.

For months, Democrats have focused their attention on Republican-held districts in suburban areas, where they hope voters punish an unpopular president’s party. That includes Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderKansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Mike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation Yoder, Messer land on K Street MORE’s (R-Kan.) district, centered in Kansas City, Kan., where Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Nadler: I don't understand why Mueller didn't charge Donald Trump Jr., others in Trump Tower meeting Kellyanne Conway: Mueller didn't need to use the word 'exoneration' in report MORE won a plurality of the vote in the 2016 presidential election and where voters said they were keenly aware of the choice they faced.

“It’s hard to find an issue that isn’t big,” said Deanna Bucko, after she cast her ballot for Yoder at an early voting station in this suburb of Kansas City.

Democrats have focused much of their campaign on health care, while Republicans have increasingly adopted Trump’s attacks, particularly on immigration.

Many, though not all, Republicans, far from distancing themselves from Trump, have tied themselves to him — and even some members who have taken care to cultivate independent images, like Yoder, have begun to embrace Trump’s dark warnings about the migrant caravan headed toward the southern border.

“I think everyone should be talking about it. It’s a really scary thing. And the word caravan, you can use that all day long, but it truly looks like an invasion of our country,” Lara Trump, a senior advisor to the president’s reelection campaign and Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpHouse Dem calls on lawmakers to 'insulate' election process following Mueller report Lara Trump to 'Fox & Friends': Trump 'one of the greatest presidents we've ever had' Eric and Lara Trump expecting their second child MORE's wife, said in an interview.

To some Democrats, the Republican effort to find a message that works reminds them of 2010, when the GOP reclaimed the majority virtually entirely because of anger at the slow economic recovery and opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

“The cycle definitely feels like 2010 in reverse,” said Shripal Shah, a Democratic strategist who worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2010. “They went from running on a tax plan and daring the opposition to oppose it, then trying to localize inherently national races, to where we are now, scorched-earth negative, and hoping for the best.”

Both parties are racing to spend more money in a significant number of House districts far astray of the typical battleground districts.

The largest super PAC on the Republican side has spent recently in districts held by Reps. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Ex-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Virginia New Members 2019 MORE (R-Va.) and Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddGOP's Tillis comes under pressure for taking on Trump The 23 Republicans who voted against the anti-hate resolution House passes anti-hate measure amid Dem tensions MORE (R-N.C.), neither of whom were seen as particularly vulnerable as the cycle began. 

In the final week of the race, the largest Democratic groups are spending money in 64 media markets around the country, according to sources watching the advertising market. Republican groups are spending in 58 markets.

Republicans have been taken aback by the enthusiasm on the Democratic side, one that shows up in campaign finance reports made in the final weeks of the race. Since Jan. 1, Democrats and their supporters have outspent Republican forces by a margin of more than $125 million.

In some of the most hotly contested media markets, like Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., Democratic spending is twice as high as Republican spending. In virtually every market, Democrats are outspending Republicans on television by millions of dollars.

“It obviously looks slightly better on the Democrat side,” Lara Trump conceded.

CORRECTION:A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Republican spending in Wisconsin. The source of that information, Medium Buying, has corrected their information.